The progress the Cleveland Indians made on a six-game winning streak has been diminished with consecutive losses, and while it might seem they've got the right guy on the mound against spiraling Detroit, the heart of the Tigers lineup has hit Corey Kluber extremely well.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner will try to get the fringe wild-card contenders back on track Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Comerica Park.
Cleveland (64-68) dropped the last two of a three-game set in Toronto, and Wednesday's 5-1 defeat dropped it six games back of Texas for the second wild card after getting within four on Monday.
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The lineup went quiet with four hits, but the bullpen is keeping the Indians in games with a 1.19 ERA in 22 2-3 innings over the last seven.
Relievers could again be relied upon against Detroit (61-72) with Cleveland starters posting a 6.86 ERA in 12 meetings this season. The Indians are 3-9, and the rotation has stomached eight of the losses.
Kluber is 0-1 with a 4.12 ERA in his last three starts while striking out 26 in 19 2-3 innings. He gave up three runs in six innings of Saturday's 8-3 home win over the Los Angeles Angels.
"I don't think that it was my best outing tonight," Kluber (8-13, 3.41 ERA) told MLB's official website. "But I found a way to kind of battle through it and keep the team in it and give the team a chance to win."
Most of the right-hander's struggles have come in his 15 away starts with a 3-7 record and 3.95 ERA. One of the losses came in Detroit, dropping him to 2-6 with a 4.72 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance against the Tigers.
Miguel Cabrera is 20 for 35 with five home runs off Kluber, and his .571 average is higher than any active or retired hitter with at least 10 at-bats against him. Victor Martinez (9 for 25 with three home runs), J.D. Martinez (5 for 14 with a home run) and Nick Castellanos (5 for 15) have also hit him well.
It might help that Detroit's staff has been far worse lately. The Tigers lost 15-7 at Kansas City on Thursday for their 11th defeat in 13 games, and the last five have come with an 11.63 ERA and .390 opponent average. After a 1-5 road trip, they're more than 10 games under .500 for the first time since finishing 2008 at 74-88.
"You better learn from it," manager Brad Ausmus said. "You better try to get better `cause if it gets any worse, I don't know what we'll do. This was a very tough road trip for the pitching staff."
Detroit is switching things up with Kyle Lobstein, who hasn't started since May 23 when he landed on the disabled list with shoulder soreness. Lobstein (3-5, 4.34) dropped his final three starts with a 7.36 ERA, but his first two wins of the season came against the Indians.
The left-hander allowed six runs in 12 innings of the April wins, though his 2-0 record in four starts against Cleveland comes with a 4.84 ERA. Ryan Raburn (4 for 8) and Carlos Santana (4 for 9 with a home run) have hit him well.
The 26-year-old spent nearly a month rehabbing in the minors, making six starts with an 0-3 record and a 5.68 ERA.